A True Thrash to the Onion Patch in 2008
With 198 entries, the Newport Bermuda Race enjoyed the second largest fleet in its history, trailing only the vast squadron of 265 in the centennial 2006 race. Forty-one of the 2008 entries were owned and sailed by Cruising Club members, with at least one CCA entry in each of the five divisions.
Most of the race was a traditional, wet, starboard-tack thrash to the Onion Patch in southwesters that peaked in the 30-knot range. When the big boats sailed out of the wind as they approached Bermuda, the race became a sweep for the small ones. A 40-footer, Peter S. Rebovich Sr.’s Cal 40 Sinn Fein (photo at left) , won the top prize, which goes to the winner of the 123-boat St. David’s Lighthouse Division for cruiser-racers sailed by amateur crews under the ORR Rule. Nine of the first ten boats on corrected time were 44 feet LOA or smaller, and the best finish by a boat over 50 feet was 35th.
Two other divisions were won by 37-footers. CCA member Rich du Moulin’s Lora Ann had her fourth straight Bermuda Race victory in the Doublehanded Division, leading a CCA sweep of the top three places (five of the 12 boats were from the CCA). In the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division for boats with professional crews (and amateurs who chose to sail against them), the smallest entry, Julien Dougherty’s First 36.7 Tenacious, easily beat the other 14 boats, even after she was penalized an hour for non-compliance with two safety rules. CCA member Larry Huntington’s Snow Lion was the top Gibbs Hill boat 50 feet LOA or longer, correcting out to fifth.
The Cruiser Division was the second largest division, with 43 boats, ten commanded by CCA members. The winner was Paul Hubbard’s Oyster 435 Bermuda Oyster. The four-boat Open Division for boats with cant keels was won by Ronald O’Hanley’s Privateer, a Cookson 50. CCA member Joe Harris again sailed his Open Class 50 Gryphon Solo.
The big story was Sinn Fein, from Raritan, N.J. She got to the favorable eddy west of rhumb line in timely fashion, and then proceeded to grind down the competition, for a while using a flat Code Zero reaching spinnaker when the wind favored her toward the end. She is only the second boat to win consecutive St. David’s Lighthouse trophies (the other is Carleton Mitchell’s Finisterre in 1956, 1958, and 1960). This trophy goes to the division’s winner under the ORR rule, an evolution of the IMS (which originated at the CCA) that is the main rating rule in our Bermuda Race, the Transpac, and other major offshore races. The 2008 race also calculated places under the IRC Rule, and here Sinn Fein again won, the prize being the new North Rock Beacon Trophy.
There were 25 CCA boats in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, and, among them, they took three of the top five places. Second for both the St. David’s Lighthouse and North Rock Beacon trophies was CCA Vice Commodore Sheila McCurdy’s 38-footer Selkie (photo at right), designed by her late father, former CCA Commodore Jim McCurdy. Four of Selkie’s seven sailors were CCA members. Bermudian and CCA member Colin Couper’s Babe was third and led a CCA sweep of the top three places in Class 3. Edwin Gaynor’s Emily, sailing her record 16th Newport Bermuda Race, finished fifth overall in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division.
Other silver won by CCA boats included: St. David’s Lighthouse Division: Howard Hodgson Jr.’s True (2nd Class 3), Rives Potts’ Carina (3rd Class 3), David Millet’s Tango (3rd Class 7), Neal Finnegan’s Clover III (2nd Class 8). North Rock Beacon Trophy: Colin Couper’s Babe (4th overall). Doublehanded Division: Hewitt Gaynor’s Mireille (2nd), Bjorn Johnson’s Valkyrie (3rd). Cruiser Division: John Watts’ Bandera (4th Division, 1st Class 14), Cary Thomson’s Freedom (2nd Class 13), Brad Willauer’s Breezing Up (2nd Class 14).
This was the first year of the William L. Glenn Family Participation Prizes for the best corrected time by a boat with at least four family members in the crew. Breezing Up was first in the Cruiser Division, and Babe, True, and Carina were first, third, and fourth in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division.
Finally, it should be remembered that this immense and complex event is managed almost entirely by volunteers—almost 200 of them in all, mostly CCA and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club members and their families and friends. All this effort was assiduously led in 2008 by Bermuda Race Organizing Committee chairman Nick Nicholson.
-- John Rousmaniere